The Australian banana industry and the Queensland Government have moved quickly to develop a response plan to Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4), following confirmation that a farm in the north of the state has returned a positive test for the plant disease.
In an attempt to contain the outbreak, Biosecurity Queensland (BQ) will boost its two command centres to a 50-strong team, which will be stationed in Brisbane and at the site of the incursion in Tully. A joint government and industry taskforce will also be established to form medium and long-term response plans to the disease.
“Today Cabinet has signed off on the Government’s initial response to the Panama outbreak,” explained Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday (16 March). “Starting that work now means that we'll be prepared to support the region when we know the full extent of the spread. There’s no doubt this is a concerning time.”
Palaszczuk was adamant that the disease would not spell the end for Queensland’s A$600m banana industry, pledging the government’s long-term support to the recovery.
“I want to reassure Queenslanders that Queensland bananas on store shelves are safe, and as tasty as ever,” Palaszczuk said. “The issue we’re confronting now doesn’t have any impact on the bananas themselves, which means consumers should not shy away from them when they’re doing their weekly fruit and vege shop. It’s important we all continue to support the banana industry as it goes through these tough times.”
The Australian banana industry is also counting the cost of Tropical Cyclone Olwyn, which battered Western Australia’s central coastline over the weekend. The banana growing region around Carnarvon was among the worst hit areas, with about 30 growers in the area losing all of their production, according to Australian Banana Growers Council director Tom Day. The Carnarvon industry is a major production hub for the Western Australian market, however, Day said Queensland bananas were also sold in the state, meaning there is unlikely to be an immediate shortage.